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Thursday, December 21, 2006, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Zune exited November with 2 percent market share

Last month's numbers are in and now may be the time for Zune fanboys nationwide to quietly return those pom-poms to their holsters.

When all the retail sources were polled and the data finely analyzed, Microsoft's fledgeling digital media player garnered a 9 percent unit share of the hard disk drive (HDD) segment — or just shy of 2 percent of the overall U.S. market — according to November data from NPD Group.

That's a significant correction from an initial sales surge and a more selective data set that awarded Zune a staggering 9 percent share during its first week on the market.

In speaking to AppleInsider, NPD analyst Steve Baker said the most recent share data was compiled from a more comprehensive list of retail sources that factored in iPod sales at Apple's own stores, and is therefore more representative of the Microsoft player's overall market share.

Figures released by the firm immediately following Zune's launch in mid-November were culled from aggregate sales data coming only from the nation's top electronics dealers, which did not include Apple retail stores.

Microsoft didn't fare much better in a similar set of market ratings released by Current Analysis. According to that firm's data, Zune secured 11 percent of the HDD player market in November but similarly accounted for just 2 percent of the digital media players sold in the U.S.

In the ensuing two-week period ending December 16, Current has Zune inching up to a 12 percent share of the HDD market and 3 percent share overall.

But for Microsoft, its uphill battle in catching the iPod is looking more and more like a crawl up an oil-slicked ridge. According to NPD, Apple easily maintained its dominance in the market with a 62.2 percent share last month. That's down just slightly from a year ago when it held an even 63 percent.

For the three-month period ending December, analysts expect Apple to announce iPod sales in excess of 16 million units. On the other hand, Microsoft recently conceded that it's unlikely to surpass the million mark for Zune sales until June of 2007.

"We think that's actually pretty awesome," said Bryan Lee, corporate vice president for the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. He added that he expects Microsoft will eventually "be the leader" in the digital media player segment.